On the Avenues of the Sunset District
San Francisco’s largest neighborhood takes its name from its western edge where Mother Nature puts on an evening show at Ocean Beach, the shoreline where this district meets the Pacific Ocean. Previously labeled as the Outside Lands, the 19th century Sunset District was covered in sand dunes and not yet incorporated as part of the city. Those dunes and coastal scrub have been replaced by Golden Gate Park, the nation’s largest urban park, and by residential streets laid out in a grid of consecutively numbered avenues from low (Inner Sunset) to high (Outer Sunset) capped off at the Pacific’s edge by the Great Highway… a road which is neither great nor a highway!
Surf and Turf
Visitors to the western end of Golden Gate Park, to the surf at Ocean Beach and to see the lions and tigers at the San Francisco Zoo are actually experiencing the Sunset District. Of course, Tiger Woods was in the Sunset District, too, when competing in the fifth U.S. Open to be held at the Olympic Club in 2012.
Check Your Dates
Right on through the year, there’s a special reason matching each season to head for the Sunset District.
When spring has sprung, amateur golfers who don’t quite qualify for the pro cut know that they can play the links on a muni course overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Harding Park Golf Club, owned by the city, is part of the PGA’s Tournament Players Club. Practice makes perfect; there’s time before 2020, when the PGA Championship returns here.
If a visit takes place in summer, the Stern Grove Festival is in full swing. The eucalyptus-wooded natural amphitheateron 33-acres is entertainment central every Sunday at 2 p.m. from mid-June through mid-August. As the oldest performing arts festival in America, the top name lineup has been a San Francisco fixture for nearly 80 years and it’s always free.
In autumn, our quirky weather patterns mean that temperatures rise, the signature fog takes a breather and glorious walks along the beach end with photo keepsakes of spectacular sunsets. Take a hike around Lake Merced Park, pop a toe into the Pacific Ocean, hang ten in a wetsuit or go hang gliding from the 200-foot cliffs at Fort Funston in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Leave the mittens and waterproof boots at home, as San Francisco winters are free of ice and snow. Winter lows, even at night, average in the mid-40s Fahrenheit. What a perfect time to bring the kids and visit the zoo without the crowds.
Grand View Park
At 16th Avenue between Noriega Street and Moraga Street, a flight of mosaic tiled steps receives five-star reviews on social media. Leading from the base of Grand View Park, discover these 163 handsomely and intricately decorated steps tucked into a residential Sunset District hillside. The project undertaken by 300 local residents in 2003 is a beauty. Those who stumble upon it are further rewarded by the summit’s tiny park with just one bench, providing an eagle-eyed view of Golden Gate Park and the city beyond.
Did You Know?
- While in office, the 29th U.S. president, Warren G. Harding, was only 57 when he suddenly died at the Presidential Suite of the Palace Hotel on Market Street. Harding Golf Course is named after him.
- Covering 614 acres, Lake Merced Park has a freshwater lake where fishing lessons are offered by the city Recreation and Parks Department on Saturday mornings in autumn.
- The Sunset District is also the student district, home to San Francisco State University (SFSU) and City College San Francisco (CCSF) at Lake Merced.
- City College San Francisco (CCSF) at Lake Merced is home to artist Diego Rivera’s “Pan American Unity Mural,” commissioned for the 1940 International Golden Gate Exposition.